Aberdeen School District, WA

…is about to join the ever growing list of school districts attempting to legally defend the homophobic and in this case the racist climate in their schools using the three monkey defense. 

Nineteen-year-old former Aberdeen student Russell Dickerson III and the ACLU are taking Aberdeen School District to federal court in Tacoma, WA claiming the district violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a state anti-discrimination law.

Russell Dickerson III says he was subject to repeated bullying because he’s black and because of his perceived sexual orientation. His classmates called him names like “nappy ho, faggot, shake and bake, the ‘N’ word,” he said.

The Seattle Times has a more detailed account of this story including the following excerpt: 

ACLU attorneys said the district’s failure to act created an environment that no student should be forced to endure, violating his federal and state civil rights. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Aberdeen police Capt. John Green said his department has investigated several complaints over the years by the Dickerson family of incidents both in school and out — of broken windows in the home and on their vehicles. “We even directed extra patrols their way, but unfortunately that’s as far as it went,” Green said.

Dickerson, who was diagnosed in 2004 with post-traumatic stress syndrome, said he currently is enrolled in an online college program as a way to avoid contact with his former harassers.

He alleges in the lawsuit an almost-unrelenting series of bullying incidents that began when he entered Miller Junior High School in 2003 and continued until he graduated: (go to the article to see incidents detailed)

Russell spoke about his ordeal at a news conference earlier this week. 

And the Seattle Post  among other news outlets reports that the professionals in the Aberdeen District were regularly informed of the situation for the entire six-year period and that their professional “prompt corrective actions” did nothing to make Russell safe while at school in order to learn.  Yet the superintendent of the district sees no reason for his education system to be held accountable.

Aberdeen School District Superintendent Tom Opstad said late Tuesday afternoon that the district had worked “diligently and collaboratively” with Dickerson and his family to address his complaints.

“The District adamantly denies that the District has allowed any student, including Russell, to be harassed without prompt corrective action being taken,” Opstad said in a statement.

Really?  Prompt corrective action?  Really?

Russell’s six-year ordeal both attending school and as a result of his association with Aberdeen students sounds like grounds for both a school lawsuit and criminal charges against some of his stalkers. 

And yea, I think it’s time to begin aggressively using state and federal stalker laws in these ‘bullying’ cases.   I suspect a review of the actions of the ‘bullies’ in this case will reveal that while the general homophobic and racists harassment was widespread, there were a small number of people or possibly a single individual who took it as a personal hobby/mission to terrorize this young man at school and at home.  Shoot Andrew Shirvell should have been used as the poster child for renaming this kind of personal homophobic vendetta as stalking. 

And in the case of Russell Dickerson III when you begin to read through the series of attacks this young man endured at school, away from school, and in cyberspace, and then you look at *Washington’s stalker law it is clear that this type of targeted behavior pretty much fits the definition.

So I hope the ACLU works to identify any and all notorious ‘bullies’ and ‘ringleaders’ in this case and holds these young people accountable for their actions.   I want this type of behavior marked out and named for what it is, enough with childish terms like ringleader or bully, these classmates are stalkers pure and simple.

And of course I too want the ACLU to hold the Aberdeen professionals accountable for their incompetent, ineffectual, and biased actions against this young man. 

Do the right thing by all students because it is the right thing… or do it because you cannot afford not to.  I don’t care, just do it.

HT Andy Towle 

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